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Rod Watson: If practice makes perfect, Cuomo preparing to take on liar in chief

Forget about the fact that no one outside of New York is thinking about Andrew Cuomo’s 2020 presidential bid.

The important thing is that the governor obviously is.

How do I know that Cuomo is preparing for a presidential run?

I’ve noticed that he has quietly been practicing how to lie.

Recall that in February, Cuomo told The Buffalo News that he couldn’t remember if he had attended a secret fundraiser here just before Christmas – even though the event raised at least $99,000. Sure, the governor is used to big money, but 99 grand is not something anyone forgets.

More recently, in the midst of the federal probe into the Buffalo Billion and other state development projects, the governor known for his attention to detail said with a straight face that he wasn’t even following the work of then-prosecutor Preet Bharara that threatened to sink his administration.

That’s two. One more whopper, and you can consider it an official announcement. This despite the fact that a Buffalo News informal survey of state party leaders showed no interest yet in a Cuomo bid.

Albany buzz about Cuomo's presidential ambitions is absent everywhere else

But why shouldn’t he run? Judging by present precedent, he has all of the prerequisites: Not only has he shown a willingness to get around the truth, he’s already just one step ahead of investigators – just like the man he would replace.

Of course, Cuomo – the SAFE Act aside – also has a positive record he could run on, for any voters who still care about that sort of thing. And his prevarications are hardly Trumpian yet.

But in a very short time, he has gone from hyperbole, to spin to "I’m going to insult your intelligence with something so blatantly false that only a fool would believe it."

As campaign 2016 illustrated, there are more than enough true believers.

Remember that the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact rated 50 percent of Hillary Clinton’s statements as true or mostly true and only 12 percent as false or "pants on fire" lies. For Donald Trump, the numbers were reversed: Only 17 percent of his statements were true and a whopping 48 percent were lies.

Yet look who’s in the White House. In fact, you have to wonder what Trump supporters tell their kids about the importance of honesty.

No wonder Cuomo, always a quick study, seems poised now to abandon Michelle Obama’s losing strategy. "When they go low, we go high" was a lovely sentiment, well suited to another age. But experience shows that it’s a recipe for failure in the America we have become.

Instead of going high, Cuomo will have to go as low as the incumbent. Consider it a political limbo contest.

That means he is going to need a lot more practice to take on the Joe Isuzu of politics, who brings to mind the fictional 1980s car salesman known for his outrageous claims.

When it comes to honesty, Trump has done what conservatives used to deride as "defining deviancy down," making us accept blatant lying from folks who get introduced as "The honorable ..." That’s a lot for Cuomo to try to match.

But today’s electorate has dictated the strategy.

When Johnny Cash penned "What is Truth?" in 1970, he was talking about young people trying to find the answer in a corrupt world.

Now, the answer to Cash’s question is: Who cares?

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